Climate and Security January 7, 2009 : 2:14 PM

In Sunday's Washington Post, James R. Lee wrote an important Op-Ed on a topic I've addressed several times on this blog and in a recent speech, the link between the climate crisis and our national security. He wrote:

"We're used to thinking of climate change as an environmental problem, not a military one, but it's long past time to alter that mindset. Climate change may mean changes in Western lifestyles, but in some parts of the world, it will mean far more. Living in Washington, I may respond to global warming by buying a Prius, planting a tree or lowering my thermostat. But elsewhere, people will respond to climate change by building bomb shelters and buying guns."

As the effects of the climate crisis become more pronounced, these security threats will continue to grow. Lee's article does an excellent job of summing up the problem stating:

"For the next two decades or so, the climate will continue to change: Historic levels of built-up greenhouse gases will continue to warm the world -- and spin it toward new patterns of conflict. So we need to do more than simply reverse climate change. We need to understand and react to it -- ordinary people and governments alike -- in ways that avoid conflict. Over the next few years, we may find that climate-change accords and peace treaties start to overlap more and more. And we may find that global warming is heating new conflicts up to the boiling point."

Actually, in a book released last year, The Age of Consequences: The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Global Climate Change, Professor Leon Fuerth addressed this very topic in a thorough and thoughtful way, as he has done for years. Leon was my National Security Adviser when I was VP, and is one of the most thoughtful analysts I have ever known. I recommend his analysis in this book. In addition the rest of the book is well worth reading.